Sports frauds nothing new

On Friday I received a cryptic email from a pal in Indianapolis who knows me well, so I knew it had to contain a link to one of the following: a one-hit wonder pop band, a ballplayer from the ’70s with a giant Afro or giant mustache, Salma Hayek or a pithy witticism by George Carlin.

It was George. Classic Carlin. Here’s his rant, in its entirety:

"I’d like to begin by saying (expletive) Lance Armstrong. (Expletive) him and his (testicles), and his bicycles and his steroids and his yellow shirts and the dumb empty expression on his face. … I’m tired of that (expletive). And while you’re at it, (expletive) Tiger Woods too. There’s another (expletive) I can do without. I’m tired of being told who to admire in this country. Aren’t you sick of being told who your heroes oughta be? Being told who you oughta be looking up to? I’ll choose my own heroes, thank you very much. And (expletive) Dr. Phil too …"

There it is, sports fans. Ninety-eight words. One minute, seven seconds. There it is. No need to break it down over two nights.

The only reason George Carlin didn’t mention the fake girlfriends of Notre Dame football players is because that all came to light on Wednesday, and George died in 2008.

A lot of people on the Internet over the past 48 hours have been compiling lists of sports frauds, because this is what people on the Internet do when there aren’t any football games and Fantasy League standings to check or Fantasy League lineups to assemble – or when their Fantasy League girlfriends have gone offline to avoid drug smugglers, or knit an afghan, or dye their hair blue.

Ben Johnson; Marion Jones; the 1919 Black Sox; the Spanish gold medal intellectually disabled basketball team that was not intellectually disabled; figments of vivid imaginations, such as Sports Illustrated’s Sidd Finch, he of the 168 mph fastball; and Bob Knight’s Ivan Renko, he of the deft jump shots and fierce rebounds who wound up on several blue-chip recruiting lists after Knight had somebody call in his stats.

(The General was not a big fan of blue-chip recruiting lists and people who make money publishing them.)

These are all five-star examples of sports frauds. But none of these lists made mention of Donald Crowhurst, who died while trying to sail around the world in 1968.

I would not have heard of this man were it not for another friend with a bit of a higher brow, who recommended I watch a haunting documentary called "Deep Water," about the Sunday (London) Times Golden Globe Race.

Crowhurst had entered, hoping to prop up a failing business venture. He was last among the nine sailors to get his boat in the water, on the last day before the deadline, on Oct. 31, 1968, when he sailed off onto the high seas – and into 10 months of abject solitude for which he was not prepared.

Few are. Only one of the nine sailors made it.

Most were swallowed up by the high seas, in the manner of George Clooney steaming to the Flemish Cap. Others went insane.

Bernard Moitessier could have been the inspiration behind "Gilligan’s Island." Moitessier was a mighty sailing man from France, a skipper brave and sure. Seven months into the boat race around the world he was on the verge of winning it. So he turned around. Turned around!

The abject solitude had turned his brain to mush.

Moitessier would sail halfway around the world again, to Tahiti. He would settle in the atoll of Ahe, where for a time it is said he farmed fruits and vegetables.

Donald Crowhurst did not possess the mad sailing skills to turn around and head for Tahiti. He was an amateur, no more a pro than the guy who drives hobby stocks and bombers at the local bullring on Saturday nights.

Faced with the choice of committing certain suicide by sailing into the unforgiving Southern Ocean, or abandoning his race, which would financially ruin him, Crowhurst found a hiding place and made false log entries. He contrived this elaborate scheme. He would wait, Rosie Ruiz-style, for the fleet to pass his position on its way back to England. Then, when all yachts were safely in front, he would rejoin the race.

He would finish last, but he would finish. He would be a success. No one would learn of the deceit. His business would be saved, his creditors satisfied. His wife and small children would be proud of him. And because he would finish last, his bogus log book wouldn’t come under scrutiny.

But he didn’t take into account Moitessier turning around. He didn’t take into account the others, except for one, not making it.

The amateur sailor didn’t take into account he would be hailed as the winner.

He had created a lie, gotten in way too deep. Does any of this sound familiar?

When his logs were scrutinized, he would be disgraced and humiliated. And the thought of that, combined with the abject solitude, did in Donald Crowhurst.

His trimaran was found adrift in 1969. Crowhurst was never found. His irrational writings toward the end suggest a mental breakdown and suicide.

Crowhurst wrote in his diary that he had become "a second generation cosmic being."

"The shameful secret of God," he wrote, "is that there is no good or evil. Only truth."

His publicist, a chap named Rodney Hallworth, promised to recover the false log. Promised to take it to his grave …

He sold it to The Times of London, exposing the fraud of Donald Crowhurst for what a rival newspaper called "a small fortune."

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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